Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Politics, Schmolitics! Let’s See Their Wedding Photos!

Saturday, November 10th, 2012

The election is over. We’ve cast our votes, the winners have been declared and now it’s time to let go of party animosity and find ways to work together. And you know what always makes me feel good? A wedding!

The only president ever to marry in the White House was Grover Cleveland, when he married twenty-one year old Frances Folsom. There may have been (and in fact, there was) a twenty-seven year age gap between them, but they had a happy marriage by every account I’ve heard or read.

But while other presidents did not marry in office, most of them did marry at some point before getting elected. In fact, the only lifelong bachelor to serve as president of the US was James Buchanan. His neice, Harriet Lane, was his official hostess. Several others were widowers when they took office, such as Thomas Jefferson who depended on his older daughter, Martha, and his good friend Dolley Madison to handle the particulars of the social side of things.

So what did some of our most famous leaders look like on their wedding days? Take a look and see!

Okay, Okay, So We Can’t Wear It

Friday, September 7th, 2012

This lady is Ethel Dalziel, as she appeared on her wedding day in 1908 when she married Ronald Cooper in Glasgow, Scotland.

No, you haven’t heard of either. They were simply two people who got married, had a family, and eventually died. They did nothing that got them particularly remembered in the annals of history outside their own family.

As for the dress, well, there are a couple things interesting about that. No, not the design. No, not the materials. Both are pretty typical for a wedding gown of the period worn by a middle class bride. The Brussels lace is very pretty, but hardly unusual.

Now the fact that it has survived two bombing raids during WWII and still has all accessories (shoes, stockings, veil, and even wax orange blossom hair wreath) intact is a lot more interesting. It’s rare to find a gown of this era where provenance can be proven, let alone with the accessories.

And yet this is not the part The Daily Mail finds important, either.

Nope, their primary concern with this dress is that brides today are too darn large to wear it.

You see, Ethel’s granddaughter, Elizabeth Hoare, is auctioning off the dress. She tried at first to sell it to a museum, but there were no takers. She did tell the Mail she thought about wearing the gown for her own wedding, but it didn’t fit.

This is unsurprising. Not only was the bride precisely five feet tall, she was wearing a corset when she fit into this dress.

The Mail makes a big deal about how small the dress is, mentioning the eighteen-inch waist and the fact that it’s smaller than a UK size four multiple times.

Yes, the dress is small. It was made at a time when people were – on average – several inches shorter and some pounds lighter than they are today. And did I mention those corsets? Here’s one from roughly the same time period:

See how it affects the waistline?

Also, remember that the bride stood 5’0″ tall. The average woman is taller than that. In fact, the average British woman today is roughly 5’4″, or four inches taller than Ethel was on her wedding day. The Mail does not go into the question of how much taller the average bride is today, nor the corset she would have worn over a hundred years ago.

The average age of brides has also risen over time. In Ethel’s day, the average age of a first time bride 25.63 years. In an article in the Mail roughly two years ago, the reported average age of a first time bride in the UK was thirty and rising. Most adults do gain weight in their late twenties to early thirties.

In short, while the article seems to take issue with the fact that most women today couldn’t fit into this dress and seems to question why anyone who couldn’t wear it might want it, the reason women wouldn’t wear it for a wedding today isn’t that they’re too fat: it’s that they’re too tall, don’t wear corsets, are inclined to be older, and, oh yes, styles have changed drastically.

And of course there could be the reason that it’s a delicate thing that has lasted over a hundred years and two world wars completely intact, so one might want to preserve it simply because there are fewer and fewer of these typical gowns around. The fact that the accessories are also intact and kept with it would make it the highlight of many a private collection.

I don’t need an eighteen-inch waist to appreciate a thing that is beautiful and increasingly rare.

Besides, you folks know what I always say: it’s the job of the dress to fit you, not yours to fit the dress.

Manolo for the Bride Ahead of Martha for Style

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

It’s a well-known fact that Martha Stewart is the final word on putting together a gorgeous, classy wedding. She’s written books about it, and publishes an entire magazine on her upscale homespun wedding style. And now on her website, she’s put together a slideshow on the seven ‘new’ ‘etiquette rules’ she has devised.

Funny thing, only one is specifically an etiquette rule and that one was in my copy of Miss Manners from the late eighties in which she points out that hand written invitations are, in fact, even more correct that engraved ones, which are more correct than printed ones. My mother’s pre-war etiquette manual agrees with Miss Manners from the late 1930’s.

A Scientific Approach to Marriage

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Charles Darwin is remembered today mostly for the Theory of Evolution. Yeah, I can’t argue with that one. It kind of changed the world.

What is less commonly known about him is that he was married for forty four years to Emma Wedgewood, with whom he had ten children. He was, as he might describe himself, evolutionarily successful.

By all accounts the Darwins had a happy marriage, too. There was none of the emotional abuse, scandal and divorce that, say, Charles Dickens created in his marriage. But Dickens and his marriage are a subject for another day. This is Darwin Day.

As with other matters in his life and work, Darwin seems to have taken something of a clinical approach to the question of marriage. And since it wasn’t something he could run an experiment on before taking the leap, he did the next best thing: he wrote out a list of pros and cons about marriage in his diary in April and July of 1838.

On the upside he listed things like ‘female chit-chat’ and ‘constant companion (& friend in old age) who will feel interested in one.’ Oh, and my personal favorite: ‘Better than a dog, anyhow.’

On the downside he listed the misery of living in London all the time, a duty to work for money, and no collecting books. I have to say, my heart went out to him on the no books thing. After all, I’m a lifelong biblioholic. We feel kinship.

In the end, it appears the the comforts of family and chit-chat won out over books and travel. Of course, Darwin did buy more books, travel, and write. See, in a really good marriage, spouses recognize the needs of their life companions, both personally and professionally and do their best to find ways to support one another through the decisions that need to be made. Emma Wedgewood Darwin knew her husband needed books, just like I know Mr. Twistie needs music… and Mr. Twistie knows I need books.

It can be tempting to make the decision to marry all about big, sweeping emotion. And I’m certainly not saying it can’t work out. It can. I’ve witnessed it in my own family.

But there’s still something to be said for taking a breath, taking a moment, and considering what it all means when the constant passion begins to mellow into something else. It never hurts to consider what will change about your life after you make the leap, and determining whether it’s truly what you want.

So a list may not sound terribly romantic, but I can certainly think of worse ways to decide whether marriage – in general, or in particular – is for you.

Oh, and for the record? My list when it came to Mr. Twistie pretty much read ‘duh! Perfect for me! Set date, create wedding!’

Toast of the Town? Or Just Crumby?

Friday, July 13th, 2012

When it comes to celebrity couples, it’s kind of amazing what people will consider collectible.

Take, for instance, the odd collectible from the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. Thirty one years ago, on the day the royal couple took their wedding vows, the prince did not finish his breakfast. One Rosemarie Smith, now eighty-three, was visiting her daughter who worked as a maid at the palace. One of the daughter’s jobs was to clear away the prince’s breakfast tray. Smith snatched up the uneaten toast and has kept it preserved in a Royal Crown Derby teacup ever since.

For a long time, it was just Smith’s little personal keepsake. Recently, however, with the marriage of Prince William and the Queen’s diamond jubilee, she thought Prince Charles’ wedding toast might be worth something.

“I just wandered into the auctioneers out of curiosity and asked them if it was worth anything. I was pleasantly surprised to hear them agree with me that it could be of quite some value to Royal collectors.”

In fact, when it goes on the auction block, the royal toast is expected to fetch somewhere in the vicinity of five hundred pounds sterling. That’s close to eight hundred smackers in American money.

Me? I think I’ll make some fresh toast.

‘Til the End of the Contract Do Us Part

Friday, September 30th, 2011

‘Til death do us part.

That’s the vow, right? That you’ll stay together until one or the other of you dies?

We all know couples who haven’t managed that one. Heck, I’m the second Mrs. Twistie! His first marriage didn’t end with a death, but with divorce. Some of you have talked in comments about previous marriages. Right now, I happen to be doing a lot of hand-holding for a very good friend who decided to call her marriage quits after ten years because she has never been happy in it.

I swore ’til death do us part, and I fully intend to honor that vow. But I completely get that not every relationship is going to work out that way. And so I was intrigued with the fact that Mexico City has a proposal currently on the table for temporary marriages.

The proposed temporary marriage would have a two-year minimum term, at the end of which couples would have the option to either extend the contract or dissolve the marriage without the legal hassles of a divorce. The marriage would simply end.

Bridal White

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

When picking out a wedding gown, many women never consider a color other than white or some form of off-white. This is not precisely shocking, since white is a color that has been associated with brides quite literally for centuries.

On the other hand, white was not always assumed.